Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, said on Monday that Republicans may use the budget reconciliation process to repeal the Affordable Care Act -- a procedural tactic he condemned Democrats for using to pass the health care bill in 2010.
"We will repeal it," Hatch said in a speech to the American Enterprise Institute on Monday. "And the Democrats know that we can. After their abuse of the budget reconciliation process in 2010 to get this law passed, it should come as no surprise when Republican majorities legitimately and appropriately use the same process to repeal this unpopular law next year."
Reconciliation would allow Republicans to bypass the Democrat-controlled Senate by repealing parts or all of the health care law during committee negotiations over the budget. It may be Republicans' only option for repealing the law if Democrats maintain control after the elections.
Hatch did not find the budget reconciliation process legitimate or appropriate in February 2010, when he called on President Barack Obama to renounce the Democrats' use of the procedure to pass health care reform.
“The use of expedited reconciliation process to push through more dramatic changes to a health care bill of such size, scope and magnitude is unprecedented," Hatch wrote in a letter to Obama in February 2010. "It would severely limit the deliberation and consideration of thoughts and concerns from both sides of the aisle. The American people deserve an open and vigorous dialogue on this critical legislation and the use of this process would be a clear signal that Washington continues to ignore their voices."
Some Democrats have questioned Hatch's change of opinion on the process, pointing out that this is not the first time he's switched feelings on a topic.
"With all due respect, is this the same Senator Hatch who was for the individual mandate before he was against it? The same Senator Hatch who was for SCHIP [State Children's Health Insurance Program] before he was against it," said a senior House Democratic aide. "Americans want us to focus on jobs and to ensure that insurance companies are not put in charge of health decisions."
Hatch spokesman Matt Harakal told The Huffington Post that the senator's change of heart on the procedure is justified, since Democrats already used it.
"In short, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander," Harakal said. "Senate Democrats were the ones who first used reconciliation –- a budget procedure -– to pass a massive health law. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that reconciliation could be used to repeal the law as well."